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The Gift of Heaven
Evolution presupposes involution. Nothing can be evolved that has not in the first instance been involved. The oak tree is potentially concealed within the germ in the acorn, the bird within the germ plasm in the yolk of the egg. Involution and evolution express a process that is perpetually in operation from the only source adequate to account for it—the Infinite and Eternal Love and Wisdom of the Creator. "Subsistence is perpetual existence" (Arcana Coelestia #775). Nature is a continual manifestation and representation of the Divine Life.
Man, however, occupies a unique place in creation. In the seed of man there is involved the distinctively human faculty of loving God and of believing in God. By the use of this faculty man reflects the image and likeness of his Maker so far as he becomes conscious of God’s love in his heart, and expresses it in the daily life. Thus for a million years man has been slowly evolving in part what was potentially involved in the use of his will and understanding in active life. God has been spelling out the word Man all these years, while man has progressively been spelling out the word God.
A Latent Race Inheritance
The first eleven chapters of Genesis relate to prehistoric man. They tell in allegory, the language of that era, of the rise and fall of man in the early morning of the world.
Chapter 1. The story of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis covered a very long period of time, during which the human race advanced from a state of complete ignorance to the highest state of perfection without sin; from a state of chaos and darkness overshadowing the deep to the garden of Eden. The process of development covers three marked stages—the first three days, the second three days, and the seventh day ending with life in the garden of Eden. The first cycle covers the growth of primitive man in knowledge, the second cycle his growth in intelligence, and the third cycle his growth in wisdom.
In the first cycle man learned the nature and use of many things in his environment. The acquisition of this knowledge brought light into the mind. The more man learned the more he was conscious of his ignorance. God separated the light from the darkness. In humility man realized that what he knew was as nothing to that which he did not know. In his knowledge of spiritual and natural phenomena he found his greatest joy. This is heaven in the midst of the waters above and below. Man also learned how to live, how to apply knowledge to life—his social life, his day’s work, and his intercourse with God. These fruits of his labor marked a decided step in the making of man in the image and likeness of God.
The second cycle discloses the growth in intelligence, light on a higher plane, the plane of causation. The creation of the sun, moon and stars betokens a deeper enlightenment, especially in relation to God’s love to man and man’s duty to his fellowmen. Here again doubt and ignorance marked the limitations of man’s understanding. Yet, when life’s problems seemed insoluble and darkness reigned within, the memory of past blessings and words of wisdom afforded comfort. Deeper reflection upon life’s experiences opened the mind to new ways of living, which in turn enriched the tribal or communal life, revealing more fully the image and likeness of God, the Creator.
2. Thus, in the first place, the race in its infancy gained a knowledge of the facts of being, and how to live by them; and, in the second place, labored to get at the inner meaning of these facts, particularly the way in which all creation expressed the mind of the Creator. To see God in nature reveals the human in Him.
O world as God has made it, all is beauty:
And knowing this is love, and love is duty.
– R. Browning
The beauty in the world conceals the love of God in the service of man. When pristine man beheld that beauty and made it a part of his own nature in the service of others he at last gained wisdom, which is the third cycle, and reached the pinnacle in man’s growth in that era. Man lived in God, and God in him. The peace of God—the Sabbath state—reigned within his soul. He lived in the garden of Eden, the garden of delight. His chief joy lay in the growth of wisdom. The tree of life was at the center of things. It expressed man’s growing perception of his dependence upon God for everything. It was the part of wisdom also to perceive the peril of trusting in self and the outward show of things. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was also in the center of the garden. Human happiness is measured by voluntary submission to the laws of heaven.
How free we seem, how fettered fast we are.
I feel He laid the fetters: let them lie.
– R. Browning, "Andrea Del Sarto"
Had man chosen to live within the law, the world might have been without sin today. But—man decided to remove the fetters laid by God for his good to discover the prison bars of hell.
How Evil Came
3. The fall of man follows the same course today as in the beginning. The experience never varies in its essential features. The tempter is the serpent, the embodiment of man’s sensuous nature—"the flesh"—which is of the earth, earthy. The serpent appeals to the woman, that is, to the affectionate side of human nature. The temptation to trust in appearances is the beginning of evil in everyone. A child may be forbidden to do a certain thing that would be hurtful to itself, or to others. The desire to do it returns, with the subtle inducement to know from experience just what will happen—to have the eyes opened, and "be as a god, knowing good and evil!" The parent may be wrong! The child feels quite capable of judging right and wrong for itself! It can take care of itself! It will suffer no harm! The senses easily beguile and mislead. Whether a child sees the consequences or not, disobedience is a lapse in conduct, and self-justification completes the fall. When the woman ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, she gave to her husband, and he ate also. The heart takes the lead, and the head follows. The desire to taste and see is too strong to resist, and the mind too weak to admit wrongdoing. By sin man lost his innocence, and by excusing it he sought to conceal the shame of his nakedness. He thus automatically excluded himself from paradise. The Lord excludes no one from heaven. Providentially also sin automatically shuts out the light of heaven, and saves man from deeper sins. God set cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life.
4. It is customary to think of Adam as an individual. Adam, however, is the composite name of many who belonged to the earliest people in the world, and who were the most highly developed in the spiritual life. In like manner Cain and Abel were not persons, but groups in the social body with very different natures. Those named Cain cultivated the mind. The growth of ideas of a practical order was their chief delight. Those named Abel tended the kindly affections of the heart. They fostered the spirit of brotherhood. Their service to others was acceptable to the Lord. But the service or offering of those who placed the emphasis on right thinking was not acceptable to God. Why? Because, when matters of belief are thought to be more important than brotherly love, difference of opinion leads to estrangement, enmity, and condemnation, which gives a death blow to good will. This decline and break in the communal life of the most ancient people in this world led to the development of heresies causing schisms in their social relationships. Right thinking had to be preserved, even though the best thinkers were ill disposed toward any who did not agree with them. A mark was placed on Cain that no man finding him should kill him. Intolerance does not invalidate the truth for others, although it may make it less acceptable. The truth has saving power, even though it fall from the lips of a reprobate or hypocrite. "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do ye not after their works: for they say, and do not" (Matthew 23:2).
The First Downfall
5. The genealogies which follow from Cain are ethnological or tribal, and not personal. From the names of them, their ages, and the few remarks about some of them, it is possible to get an idea of doctrines and heresies which characterized different groupings of men at the latter end of the first era of humanity on this planet. The decline that followed the long upward growth was probably rapid, and soon reached its consummation. "Except that the Lord had shortened these days, no flesh should be saved" (Matthew 24:22).
The First New Church
6, 7. The decadence reached its nadir in the days of Noah. Again, Noah is not an individual, but a group of individuals, who stood out against the corruption of their times. "There were giants in those days. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Men were great and mighty in their own eyes. They thought of themselves as supermen. Their opinions and beliefs were infallible. When called in question, they became inflamed with passion, and turned to everything they had been taught or learned to prove that they were in the right. They even made use of Scripture to sustain their point. Nothing could be true that conflicted with their own ideas. Egotists are certain that they are right, always right, and that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong. They are so completely immersed in the flood of ideas, thoughts and reasons by which they confirm themselves, that any attempt to save them is hopeless. They extinguish life within themselves, the life they enjoyed in childhood of trust in parents, teachers and friends whom they respected and loved. They thought as they felt, and could not restrain their feelings. The Noachians were tempted to match dogmatism with dogmatism, egotism with still more egotism. They had their opinions too, convincing arguments and proof texts as well. Why not settle all disputes by a superior power of persuasion? Because they saw the effect of it in breaking up homes and friendships. And so they shut themselves in, turning a deaf ear to the flood of unreason, keeping the single eye of faith open for light from above, and preserving the better feelings within. This is pictured in the ark, with the door in the side closed, its one window open above, and Noah and the animals kept safe within.
8–9:17. Loyalty to the truth, when the mind is deluged with selfish considerations, in time releases man from pessimism, renews hope, and, finally, finds a refuge for kindlier and purer thoughts from a right spirit within. Noah set the croaking raven free, never to return, and took the olive twig from the dove, which found a resting and nesting place on the earth, on being released the third time. This tells how conscience was formed in man. The rainbow is the sign that the flood will not be repeated. The race experience has made it possible for us today to take a detached view of every situation in life where our feelings warp our judgment, where passion rules our thoughts, and tests our faith in God. We have the power to see the hatefulness of the passion, and the lie in our thinking. New considerations also appear that sustain resistance. The sunshine breaks through, and the bow appears in the receding cloud. When we unreservedly admit that we are our brother’s keeper, we see where we have been in the wrong, and are free to do right.
The Second Decline and Fall
9:18–29. The world entered a new era in the time of Noah. The first great era, called the Adamic, was characterized by the supremacy of God’s love—love in simplicity and innocence— as it was in the infancy, or the kindergarten age, of humanity. The second great era, the Noachian, was the first school period, the first training in sociality or neighborliness. The allegory likens the age to Noah’s vineyard. The clusters of grapes are symbols of the fruits of good teamwork. The esprit de corps is charged with sunshine, or goodwill. But when the spirit of rivalry and hatred got underway, it led to excesses that ruined the teamwork. As the cry of Abel’s blood presaged the end of the age of innocence, so the drunkenness of Noah portended the decline and fall of the age of sociality. When any nation or people imagines that it is superior to others, when it considers that it alone is civilized, and the rest barbarian, when it thus loses its head, talks loudly of its supereminence, and becomes entirely oblivious of its obligations to others, the shame of its nakedness is apparent. Ham saw Noah’s humiliation only to publish it abroad. Shem and Japheth heard of it, but in charity cast a veil over the father’s infirmities. It is the function of religion to excuse and not deride, to save and not condemn. We see the need of charity toward ourselves when we reckon our defects as against our attainments. The people of ancient times lived up to this ideal for a period, but latterly, like their predecessors, fell down on their job.
The Great Schism
10, 11. The last legend of the tower of Babel gives an epitome of the beginning and the end of the second dispensation—the childhood of the race. At the beginning of the Noachian age "the whole earth was of one lip, and their words were one." Everyone spoke the same language, or, rather, everyone understood his neighbor. Why? Because everyone lived to serve, and not to be served. The spirit of cooperation was predominant throughout society. But when the people journeyed from the east, descended to the plain below, and built a city and tower with burnt bricks for stone and inflammable bitumen for mortar, to perpetuate their name, they ceased to understand each other, and were scattered over the face of the earth. When men turned their back on the Lord—the rising sun—lapsed to a lower plane of living, and resorted to corrupt politics with its misrepresentation of facts and ardent party spirit, to make a name for themselves, they ceased to pull together, and understand each other. They may have spoken the same language, but could never see eye to eye, when their interests were opposed. They agreed only so far as self interest dictated. Rugged individualism is the antithesis of a cooperative commonwealth. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Thus ended the ancient regime about five thousand years ago, with the dawn of history.
Fact and Fable
Herodotus, the first historian, mingles myth with fact. Sometimes the myth contains moral teaching, as in the Promethean myth, when the meaning of the symbol is known. And sometimes myth and fact appear together, as in the story of the taking of Troy. In like manner the first chapters of Genesis are pure allegory, or myth, and record the inner experience of prehistoric man. But when we reach the name Heber it refers to a person as well as to a nation, the Hebrew nation, which took its name from its progenitor. And, finally, history proper begins with Abram, Nahor and Haran, descendants of Shem or of the Semitic race. Shem represents the inner circle, or leaders, of the Ancient Church, of which Japheth and his descendants represent the outer circle, or masses. Families and tribes in this second era of mankind grouped to form nations, build cities, and regulate their affairs for increased production and protection. Ham and his descendants represent the malcontents in the nation, who were held in subordination by the leaders and their supporters among the people. Noah condemned Canaan, son of Ham, to be the slave of Shem and Japheth.
The descendants of Ham are all of the same color. Among them are Mizraim (Egypt); Nimrod, who founded Babel; Asshur, who built Nineveh; Casluhim, from whom went forth the Philistines; and Canaan, who begat Heth, father of the Hittites, and the Jebusite, Amorite, Hivite, etc. These are the enemies who later held the children of Israel in bondage, opposed them in taking the promised land, were a thorn in the flesh while occupying it, and finally ousted ten of the tribes, and decimated the tribe of Judah! They are all "sons of Ham," whose name means "black" and "hot"! Black and hot characterize the evils which disintegrated the peoples of the Noachian era, so that they were unable to understand each other, and "were scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth," every man for himself. Meantime the human race became thoroughly externalized. The pristine state of innocence was gone, as also the later experience of sociality or neighborliness.
We have thus taken a glance at the first two stages in the development of the human race— the age of innocence, when men dwelt in tents; and the age of cooperation, when they lived in cities. What man gained and lost in both ages was banded down to posterity, and is now an unconscious factor in the evolution of character in the race and individual. What is here involved, however, does not enter the plane of conscious life, until the good involved within the historic period of the race has been restored to its place in life in fullness and purity, free from every perversion of it.
The Dawn of Consciousness
12–50. In turning now from allegory to real history, it is somewhat more difficult at first to recognize the thread of the inner meaning of the great drama in the Book of Life. The representation of the different characters from Abraham on may seem to be arbitrary or artificial. But when studied patiently in the light of experience, it becomes evident that the new meaning of the Scriptures is not put into them, but drawn out of them. It is like the study of nature and the discovery of its laws. The laws of physics have existed from the beginning. We know that our interpretation of them is correct when it works. And so with the laws of the spirit in the Word of God, which are mostly concealed within the letter. The laws have been in operation from the beginning, and as we endeavor to define them, we know that our interpretation of them as they are given in the Word is true, when it is coherent, and makes man wise unto salvation. The chief guiding Principle in interpreting the Scriptures rests upon the Lord’s own statement that He fulfilled "the law and the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44). The first words of the Gospel— "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ"— have a deeper meaning than appears in the letter. The genealogy there given descending from Abraham to Joseph summarizes all that is implied in the Lord taking upon Him our nature. And the genealogy in Luke preceding the opening of his ministry, from Joseph to Abraham, and to Adam, and to God, epitomizes the glorification of His Humanity, making it one with the Divine of which it was begotten through the conquest of sin and death. The Old Testament story presents the first part of his redemptive labors in extenso. What now follows in this running commentary takes up the theme on the plane of man’s regeneration.
In Infancy, Childhood and Youth
To start with, it is well to bear in mind that the story of Abraham represents the inheritance from the infancy of the human race in infant life today, the story of Isaac the inheritance from the childhood of the race in childhood today, and the story of Jacob and his sons the inheritance from the youth of the human race in our youth today. The Book of Life is therefore our best guide in diagnosing inherited tendencies to good and evil in our children, and in training them to better advantage for the heavenly life. In Dickens’ "Christmas Carol" the Spirit of Christmas Past revived Scrooge’s memory of the joys he felt in his childhood, when he lived in heaven. All Scrooge needed was a change of heart to regain his lost paradise. The story closes happily with the achievement. In real life Mrs. Ballington Booth brought many a hardened criminal to his knees in tears from the recollection of his mother and his childhood. We do not, however, hear of the sequel. Everyone is open to the influences of heaven in childhood, but on a descending scale as the boy or girl comes into closer touch with the world.
Heaven lies around us in our infancy.
– Wordsworth, "Ode to Immortality"
Minority shows three marked stages in the development of body, mind and soul. The milk teeth appear in the first period of growth in the body, the permanent teeth in the second period, and changes attending puberty in the third period. In developing the mind the educator separates the nursery, or kindergarten, age from the early and the late scholastic periods. Each of these three periods for body and mind covers about six or seven years. The development of the soul has correspondingly marked periods of growth. But whereas the growth of the body to its full stature, and of the mind to unlimited knowledge is upward, the growth of the soul to the age of responsibility is downward, or outward. Infants are in touch with the highest heaven. "Their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18: 10). Their innocence, their helplessness, and their complete dependence upon their parents appeals most deeply to all who love them. This innocence and simplicity the infants have from heaven. When they look to their parents for everything, and cling to them in time of danger, they have that feeling of trust from heaven. Angels are close at hand too when they play contentedly with their toys, and their imagination gives life to everything.
The age of innocence passes when children transfer their main interest to the school room and their companions. They learn to be sociable. They draw no sharp distinctions based on station, rank, wealth, color, creed, dress, or learning. They mix freely, and cooperate cheerfully with others in their groups. They respect their teachers, and ungrudgingly admire born leaders in their groups. They are open and frank in their manners and speech. In these and many other ways children acquire much of the spirit of heaven in social relationships. When they reach their teens, however, another spirit enters into the life of boys and girls. Adolescence is preeminently the age of morality. Young people come into closer touch with organized society, and take a vital interest in the morale of every person and institution. Nothing gives them greater pleasure than to discuss the problems of the hour in the Church or state. They are not as a rule so much concerned about the discussion of abstract doctrines of theology, as of Church or non-Church people. They make a hard and fast distinction between what appears to them as right or wrong. White is white, and black black. Any compromise with evil is a sign of weakness. When they adopt a cause, they are ready to sacrifice everything for it. It was "the boys" who went to the war, and in many instances misrepresented their age to get into the fight. Who fails to see the imprint of heaven on the human soul in adolescence here?
The innocence of infancy fades out of sight as the children begin to share their interests in the home with other children in the school, the town and country. They still love their parents and trust them, but differently. And they are no longer unconscious of wrong, or free from self-consciousness in their actions. According to the Biblical picture Abraham dies, and is buried in the land. Heaven is concealed within the child. In the same manner the joys of sociality become more and more restricted as social distinctions become more pronounced. Isaac dies and is buried in the land. Youth may feel strongly for moral justice, and sacrifice much for a cause, but on entering the life of the world, generally drops to the level of the world, which reckons all values in dollars and cents, or social prestige, and regards self the equal of anyone, and the superior of many. Jacob dies and is buried in the land. The kingdom of heaven is within. The man is a man of the world.
From Center to Circumference
12. Abram was born in Babylonia, in Ur of the Chaldees. He was brought up in the worst forms of idolatry, even the sacrifice of the eldest son to merit God’s favor. In such an environment he could not represent anything but the corruption of religion by evil. Providentially he was brought into the land of Canaan and there promised again and again that his seed would inherit that favored land, which represents heaven. The lives of the patriarchs, therefore, represent the impression of the spirit of heaven in the heart of everyone before taking up life’s responsibilities. The downward progression from innocence in infancy to worldliness in youth does not necessarily imply a degradation of character. The growth from inmost to outmost is perfectly normal. It is like the progression from end, which is inmost and primary, through cause, which is secondary, or instrumental, to effect, which conceals within both the end and the cause. Even so the heaven of innocence, or love to God is the inmost motive in life; the heaven of sociality is the means of expressing that love in neighborliness; and the heaven of practical morality is the plane of expression in action. All three are implied in the Lord’s words: "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). With the right motive—God’s love—everything will follow in the sequence to its permanent expression in right conduct. The motive must come first, find the way to make itself known, and finally get the word or the deed to complete the everlasting cycle, to be repeated with infinite variation. It is like the invariable cycle from seed to tree, and then to fruit, with the new seeds in it in fulfillment of the order of creation.
Life a Perpetual Spiral
13. The process of life from inmost, to outmost, from center to circumference, and back again to the center, is basic throughout nature. The growth of man from the beginning might have been orderly and natural had not man sinned. As a matter of fact, however, sin is here, and the tendency to sin is in the seed of man since the fall, as well as the tendency to good. The first appearance of evil when the child desires to have its own way contrary to the parents’ wishes may seem to be of little importance, or even any attention at all. But the appearance is frightfully deceptive. The offense may be insignificant; but what is within and behind it? The name Lot, Abram’s nephew, means "concealed," or "covered over." Lot represents the inherited tendencies to evil in the flesh. The evil content hidden within a simple offense is beyond estimate. Let any child have its own way, and in time it may rule the home, and later come to be a serious problem to the child itself, and to the community in which it lives. Most of our criminals were on their way to the penitentiary long before they reached their teens. Lot quarrels with Abram. Evil is always at odds with good. It is better that Abram and Lot should separate. Abram stays on the mountain top. His name means significantly "father of height." Lot chooses the valley where are Sodom and Gomorrah. A man is known by the company he keeps. The separation of Lot gives Abram an opportunity to grow in the land in peace. The heavenly life in infancy grows as the tendencies to evil are kept in quiescence. Good parents wisely exercise tact to avoid awakening these tendencies, or forcing the issue between them and the children unnecessarily. Give heaven a chance to grow in them. The child that grows up in a quarrelsome home is handicapped. The child that is not wanted is equally handicapped. We cannot give the children too much love, or do overmuch for them, or with them. Children are never spoiled by loving, or a bountiful mothering. The spoiling comes only when defects in character come to the surface and are treated lightly, or overlooked, or regarded as cute.
Life’s First Conflicts
14. Every child needs correction, or punishment, when in the wrong. Unquestionably the child is good by nature, and lives in sunshine under normal conditions. But all children break the rules laid down for them, and sometimes find it very hard to yield obedience. The soul’s conflicts in minority are summarized in the four kings from the east with the five kings in the valley of Siddim, full of bituminous pits. The four kings represent the ideas children conceive about right and wrong from what they have been taught. At first they do not see anything wrong in their conduct. But when they sense the real issue between them and their parents, a real conflict takes place within. The disapproval or rebuke of parents cuts them to the quick. They see also that they are not happy when in a passion or perverse. They must do something about it. In their eagerness to regain the affection and confidence of parents they are apt to condemn overmuch. Disapproval or restraint does not always imply the condemnation of the children’s pleasures, but of indulging in them to excess. Good is mixed with evil, and must not be sacrificed with it, but saved through moderation, or the separation of any evil associated with any legitimate pleasure. When the four kings took Lot after sacking Sodom and Gomorrah, Abram pursued, and saved "his brother and his goods" from destruction. The good in human nature must not perish with the bad. A child’s judgment is superficial, and often goes to extremes. A saner, a deeper, a more conservative judgment is needed to redeem man.
The Birth of the Critical Faculty
15, 16. Abram represents the love of God implanted in the innocent heart of the infant, through its love of the parents and its perfect trust in them. The love of parents comes naturally almost at birth to the child from the Lord. But obedience to parents comes later through instruction. At first the infant obeys out of love for the parents, or from a sense of duty, but not because the infant sees that it is right to do so. As it grows older it begins to think for itself and to question the parents’ commands, or even disobey them. Who has not heard a child of five or six years of age give reasons for taking its own way? This is the inception of the faculty of reason, but reason used to justify disobedience. It is represented in the birth of Ishmael, the wild-ass man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him. Willfulness demands justification, and finds the best reasons available at the time. This is not the rightful heir of Abram. A pure love of the parents requires reasoning that upholds the parents’ will as against the child’s will.
17. Every child can argue for the parents’ point of view just as well as it can argue for having its own way. It too often decides to take the line of least resistance in self-indulgence. And when it acquires a bad habit, and excuses it, the chances seem to be against reversing its judgment and acknowledging that it is in the wrong. That is human nature. Whenever the child, however, out of love for father and mother sees that they are right, and determines to reverse its ways, it is thenceforth guided by conscience— the dictate of reason. The motive which corrects the child’s judgment is the unselfish love of parents, which is to the child the love of God. This all important point is represented by the change in the names of Abram and Sarai on promise of the birth of Isaac. The insertion of the letter h, the distinctive letter in the Divine Name, Jehovah, and in the Hebrew verb "to be," is highly significant. The aspirate h is the symbol of the breath of life, and marks the point when the child decides for the right from unselfish love. That love charges it with life from God. It is rational truth.
The Birth of Reason
18–22. The birth of Isaac represents the birth of reason from unselfish love, the only source of reason that is ordained to be the instrument to save man from sin. This new faculty in man must save everything that can be saved in a corrupt world. If there are even ten righteous persons in Sodom it would not be destroyed. Although Sodom and Gomorrah could not be saved, yet Lot must not perish with them. Unselfish love desires to save everyone. The evil that turns from the light, however, compasses its own end. The Lord provides that all the good mixed up with it shall be withdrawn from it. And when that is being effected there must be no misgivings, no hankering after the old life. "Remember Lot’s wife." The child when first it sees wrong in itself, and determines to overcome it, is quite unconscious of the source and the far reaching effect of its decision, and the momentous changes wrought in its character. For the first time the child has met evil in itself destructive of its love of father and mother. The child sees that the love of parents ends if it persists in having its own way, and justifies it. To prove worthy of the parents’ love, self-justification must be completely banned—the wild-ass-man Ishmael must leave the home, that Isaac alone may take his place there. And life must henceforth be dedicated to the sole object of obeying a conscience motivated by unselfish love and approved by sound reason. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac discloses the depth of this experience in childhood, and in later life too. The dictate of conscience in later regeneration is only the flowering of the seed sown in childhood.
The Growth of Reason and Conscience
21–25. In the sanctum of the home the infant imbibes deeply the love of its parents. That love is put to the test when the child’s will conflicts with the parents’ will. If that love prevails the child will give good reasons for taking the parents’ way in preference to its own. In this way the faculty of reason is conceived and born in infancy. Tender and delicate to start with it must be carefully protected and encouraged to become the strong habit of straight thinking so greatly needed later in a world notoriously crooked in its thinking. The child enters the great world without when it goes to school, and must set up its own standard of living. The child may object to play with another particular child. Why? Where is the wrong, and how can it be set right? Or, the child may fail to cooperate in class work. It may break the rules, or be disorderly, quarrelsome, dishonest, or unfair. In the six or seven years of school life there is hardly a day when the child’s attention is not directed to questions affecting its adjustment to others in group activities. At the start the child is easily led. It respects its teachers, and lends an open ear to advice. But gradually it questions adult authority, and only obeys if shown good reason. It will be guided somewhat by the conduct of other children in its group, but will modify its behavior in line with its own thought about right and wrong. In building up a standard of behavior—conscience—the love of home plays a large part. Abraham finds a wife for Isaac from among his own people. The right reason for right action is the truth as God gives the child to see it; and God to the child is in its untainted admiration of its parents. From this source and stock comes the affection in the child for the right, which affection is represented by Rebekah. Abraham’s servant met her on her way to draw water from the well, and Isaac met her on his way from the well. A well represents the fountain of living waters, or truth, which, for the Christian, is the Word of God. Few realize the preeminent importance of the Sacred Scriptures in the home and Sunday School in forming rationality in the child. Other factors of course enter into the formation and growth of a true conscience. Abraham’s servant, the camels, the present to Rebekah, etc., all enter into the picture. Many varied elements contribute to every boy or girl’s decisions in learning to cooperate with those in the home, or in the school, or on the street, or to stand up for the right. The child’s relation to the parents and to God gradually changes. Abraham married again, and had other children. The child also makes many decisions that are selfish and antisocial. It is at times difficult to manage, stubborn and unreasonable. It won’t work, it spoils teamwork. Ishmael, the wild-ass-man, had twelve sons, princes, who built towers and castles.
23–25. The Lord, however, works in mysterious ways to give every boy and girl a sense of duty to others that fits them for superior teamwork in the world. Undoubtedly the innocence—the love of parents—implanted in infancy plays an important part in the child’s later growth. Abraham and Sarah are buried in the land. This means resurrection. What they represented in the infant’s life lives in the growth of the good side in the child and youth.
A Fountain of Living Water
26. Our duty to our children, however, is to give them a sound knowledge of the Bible, for this Book of Life teaches how the loves of self and gain—the dust of the earth—close the Word itself, which is the fountain of all truth, and how the Lord opened those truths which were with the ancients by keeping the law and the prophets in every jot and tittle. The Philistines stopped up the wells dug by Abraham’s servants, but Isaac opened them again. The spirit of the world is too strong to admit of our teaching the children the deeper significance of the Scriptures, which even we ourselves understand very imperfectly. The Philistines contested Isaac’s right to the first wells dug by his servants, and forced him to relinquish them. But when he opened the third well, the contest ended, and the Philistines entered into a covenant with Isaac at Beersheba, "the well of the oath." So when the living truth is drawn from the letter of the Word, differences in matters of interpretation may separate us, but all affirm the one essential of religion to keep the commandment that we love one another as the Lord hath loved us. The life of Isaac enforces the importance of teaching our children the stories in the Bible, for these stories all illustrate the meaning of the law, and the consequences for good or ill that follow the obedience or disobedience of it. There can be no greater help to children in forming their concept of right and wrong—the conscience which will determine the course of their spiritual life thereafter. The doctrine of faith signified by "Beersheba is the very literal sense of the Word, for the Word is doctrine itself. And he who reads to be wise, that is, to do good and understand the truth, is instructed according to his end and affection; for unknown to him the Lord flows in and enlightens his mind, and where he is at a loss, gives understanding from other passages" (Arcana Coelestia #3436). The whole Word in the literal sense teaches only one doctrine—the doctrine of love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor. "The Divine is in the literal sense of the Word, because therein is the Lord’s kingdom in the earths" (Arcana Coelestia #3451). And so the church would be like the Lord’s kingdom in the heavens if all had charity. The meaning of charity, or the law of love, is crystallized in the minds of children every day while they are learning the literal sense of the Word. We do our best when we make the story clear and definite for the child. The Lord does the rest when He effects a connection between the content of the teaching in the letter with the thoughts of the child in the issues arising daily in its home and school life. We feed the children: the Lord takes care of the processes of assimilation.
The Birth of Independence
27. Infants bask in the sunshine of God’s love in the innocent love of their parents and infant companions. From this love of God comes the conscious love of the neighbor in the child’s school life. With the approach of adolescence the boy and girl evidence an increasing impatience with control in the home or school. The urge for independence and self-expression is irrepressible, and with it comes a conflict between the will and the understanding, or the heart and the head, in meeting the problem of life. Twins struggled in the womb of Rebekah. Esau was the first-born. The second was named Jacob ("heel-catcher"), because he took hold of his brother’s heel. Jacob supplanted Esau twice: he took his birthright and his father’s blessing. The two elements that constitute man are life and doctrine. Of these two life, or good, comes first, and doctrine, or truth, second. But youth inverts this order, and makes more of doctrine than of life, or gives precedence to the head over the heart. This is to be expected. Youth is not yet of age, or out of school. In the development of character for heaven an infant is almost all heart, receptive of the Divine Love, with little or no understanding of its obligations to others. Later, as a child, it is open to the love of other children, and readily learns the meaning of the law requiring equal consideration for them in work and play. Head and heart play about an equal part in its life. In youth, however, the head takes the lead: the love of the neighbor is subordinate to self-interest. Young people are strongly opinionative, self-willed and independent. They narrow down their friendships to a chosen few: all others are regarded as acquaintances, or strangers. With sex maturity too the relationship of boys and girls is somewhat different. Youth centers its interest now in preparing for life’s responsibilities. It takes its first serious view of the real world it is about to enter in the struggle for existence.
The Mess of Pottage
The problem of evil and the question of a vocation in life are the two practical issues that confront every youth. The problem of evil is the greater, and character takes form in the attempt to solve it. The heart, already touched with the love of God and the love of the neighbor, is shocked by the disorder in the world. Youth feels impelled to do something for decency, justice and freedom. Youth may also be painfully conscious of bad habits in self that demand attention and rectification. Youth is susceptible to the appeal of religion, because it offers a way out. But which religion? Which reform? Youth is partial to the religion and politics of the parents. But it finds these called in question. The farther afield youth goes, the greater the variety of opinion. A chaotic mass of ideas confronts the youth. What shall he believe? To be of any service to others he must make his own choice. Whatever he takes to satisfy his hunger for righteousness is only an ideal. Youth mistakes it for the real. Youth is strong in the belief that in the adoption of his chosen religion, his chosen ideal, is the solution of the problem. Looked at from the inside youth has sold its birthright for a mess of pottage. The remedy is only a theory, only an abstract ideal. "Your sons and your daughters prophesy, your young men see visions! (Joel 2:28). Youth, lacking experience, is sure that all the world needs is simply an ideal, and is willing to stake its life to convert the world to that ideal. The great war was "a war to end war!" "A war to make the world safe for democracy!" The irony of fate! The price of utopianism!
A Great Illusion
The cure of human ills is never in the prescription, which substitutes the form for the substance, or truth for good. This inversion of the true order of things is inseparable from youth. Fortunately it has its good side. It leads to an intensive study of the facts of experience to prove the truth of the ideal, and its redemptive power. But youth must learn the weakness of its position. Youth cannot wholly convince one’s better reason of the invincibility of the pure ideal. Blind Isaac admits that Jacob’s hands are the hands of Esau, but protests that "the voice is the voice of Jacob." An unselfish purpose gives power to the ideal, but only so far as the evil destructive of it is removed. Youth thinks otherwise, and youth must have its way. Jacob received the blessing intended for Esau: Jacob should be lord over the nations, and his mother’s sons should bow down to him. When Esau disillusioned Isaac there seemed to be no blessing left. How wonderful the words that came at the last! "By thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother: and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have dominion, thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." Isaac confirmed his blessing to Jacob, but prophesied the reversal of it as the goal of life. Immaturity in youth implies a superficial judgment—the transcendence of faith over love. But the wisdom of experience is reached through the supremacy of love over faith. The head may be right, the ideal right, but nothing is right, till the heart is right with God. "When thou shalt have dominion, thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck."
28. Youth is not responsible for overemphasizing the importance of faith over love, for taking the outside for the inside, the form for substance. It is a normal stage of growth. Jacob has his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing. But the temporary inversion of the true order of things must be set straight. Maturity will correct the appearance by right thinking, and put all theories to the test in life’s crucible. This is the essential meaning of Jacob’s dream. The angels ascend and descend upon the ladder, and the Lord over all then promises the restoration of the land to Jacob’s posterity. The ladder is the Word of God as the stepping-stone to higher thoughts about God and man’s responsibility to God. To raise life up to that level, however, the thoughts must descend to the level of the daily life. Knowledge like wealth carries a responsibility with it. Great wealth is a curse unless used to the greater good of society. In an orderly society "each receives his own good from the common good, and in proportion to his love of the common good" (The Doctrine of Charity #127). How can this dream be materialized? Theory must be translated into action, the vision translated into new and deeper expressions of love— God’s love in man’s life. This "is the house of God; this the gate of heaven." "Heaven is a kingdom of uses" (Arcana Coelestia #997). Youth must catch the vision and never lose sight of it.
The Spiritual Life
29, 30. Youth is incurably religious, seeking the ideal in the spiritual life, as in the moral and civil life of the world. After all, the spiritual life is just the unselfish motive, or God-given motive, in moral and civil life. This has its technique too. The rational interpretation of God’s Word unfolds the inner working of the soul back of everything man thinks or does for good in the world. Youth looks to the Church to explain revelation and help it to understand the nature of God and the spiritual life. The Church exists to fill this need. Jacob reached the high land in Syria at Haran and found a well there with three flocks waiting to be watered. The well again pictures God’s Word as the source of the water of life; and the flocks are the people in the upper, middle and lower ranks in society seeking instruction in the way of life.
Its Inner and Outer Aspects
Jacob met Rachel at the well, rolled back the stone from the mouth of it, and watered the flock. Rachel represents the affection of internal truth, and Leah, her elder sister, the affection of external truth. The Church teaches external or general truths for the uninitiated, and internal truths for advanced students.
Everyone learns at first that he must love his neighbor as himself, but later asks the question who the neighbor is. This requires deeper study and experience to answer. The answer is the real objective of every Bible student, the simple and the wise alike. Jacob loved Rachel—the affection of interior truth—the moment he saw her at the well. Youth desires to know the inner side of life, but discovers, to its disappointment, that it has only touched the surface, when it imagined it had grasped the inner significance of the truth. The study of medicine offers an analogy. A medical student aims to learn the practice of medicine. He may think he knows the inside of his subject even before he graduates. It takes experience to prove that he has only learned the theory, and very imperfectly at best. After working seven years for Rachel Jacob had to accept Leah, the weak-eyed daughter, and work seven years more for Rachel, beautiful in form and handsome. Study alone, even under the guidance of a capable teacher, will not define neighborly love in its various degrees otherwise than academically, yielding only a weak understanding of one’s duty to the neighbor, because the application differs in every life, and in ever varying circumstances. History in reality never repeats itself. It needs experience to see the symmetry and beauty of the inner teachings of the Word to each life, with its own background and foreground different from those of any other person. When youth makes this its quest it acquires new concepts of life’s attribute, in the keeping of the law, or of the doctrines of the Church.
The Truths by Which Men Live
The sons of Jacob represent all the truths by which men live. With even an indifferent religious education most youths form some idea of the meaning of faith, obedience, unity and praise. The first four sons of Leah were Reuben, (meaning sight), Simeon (hearing), Levi (conjunction), and Judah (praise). To these may be added concepts of judgment and mercy (Dan), temptations (Naphtali), good works (Gad), eternal happiness (Asher), mutual love (Issachar), and marital love (Zebulun). All these concepts are formed through a simple or elementary knowledge of the Bible and the world. They are sons of Leah and the handmaids. As yet Rachel is barren. The concepts born of an understanding of the inner meaning of the Scriptures have as yet to come.
The Birth of the Christ-Ideas
30. Every Christian child knows that Jesus Christ was born to save his people from their sins. It has this thought enshrined in tender memories every year at Christmastide. The child, however, has little or no conception of what it means. Not until youth senses the love of God in coming into the world to lead His erring children back into the fold again, does it conceive this truth as intimately connected with its inner life. Joseph, the savior of his brethren, represents this vital doctrine of the Lord as the Savior of mankind.
When this becomes a live truth in the heart of young people it changes their whole viewpoint in life. Everything learned previously takes on a new and deeper meaning. And every new experience or activity has a different quality and value. Life grows richer. Many false ideas and human failings still mingle with the good in youth. Our young people may be impetuous, proud, ambitious. wasteful, niggardly, intemperate, or narrow-minded. But when vices such as these lean to virtue’s side, they do not damn character like hatred, contempt or impurity. The blemishes can be removed in time. The true and the false also are mingled in every youth. The consciousness of this mixture of good and bad in youth through the advent of the teaching of religion, and particularly of God’s love in Christ, is a sign of spiritual growth. But youth’s consciousness of its unworthiness of such consideration and mercy from the Lord is the surest proof of religion in the heart. Jacob not only increased his possessions in speckled and spotted flocks, but also in black lambs. Black lambs! Youth disowns the pretense of innocence. Youth hates sham or hypocrisy.
A New Motive
31. Thus children learn the Bible stories and form elementary ideas of the virtues and vices from them, the simple meaning of the commandments, or doctrine of life. They feel the spirit of Christmas when celebrating the birth of the Savior, but without realizing its meaning. They live on the same plane as the Gentiles, until the gospel story comes to have a meaning for them. A new motive is then set free that is destined to change character. Joseph is born in Haran, and Jacob must return to the promised land. The new motive starts a conflict within that calls for an understanding. Gentile and Christian must part. Neither may despise the good in the other, except to his own hurt. Laban and Jacob enter into a covenant at Mizpah: "The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from one another."
32. The concept of the saving grace of the Lord now leads youth to the acknowledgment of the supremacy of good over truth, or of love over faith. Youth sees at times the folly of self-confidence. Youth acknowledges vividly on occasion that it knows nothing, and has everything to learn. Youth realizes that to know what is right and not to practice it makes for hypocrisy and spiritual snobbery. Youth does not learn this either without an ache or pain. Jacob wrestled with the angel, but held his ground and received a new name, Israel, for "as a prince he gained power with God and man, and prevailed."
33. Therefore, when Jacob met Esau, he was a changed man. He bowed before him to the ground seven times, and addressed him as "my lord." Youth is learning at last that "good is what teaches and leads, truth is what is taught and led" (Arcana Coelestia #4844). Learning is of value only so far as it leads to better living. Youth at last looks at the ideal from the right angle. The religious education of youth is mostly intellectual, the result of teaching, or study. But when it reaches the point of recognizing, through a touch of experience, the priority of love, the doctrines of the Church are vitalized, and give youth its first real foothold in understanding the nature of the heavenly life. Jacob entered the promised land, and "bought the piece of ground on which he pitched his tent, from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father. And he erected there an altar, and called it God, the God of Israel."
The Acknowledgment of the Truth
34. Here begins youth’s first contact with the life of religion. The Rite of Confirmation is the symbol of it, though the two may not happen at the same point of time. Youth sees the meaning of life and openly declares its intention of being faithful henceforward to the Lord. Sometimes this experience, commonly called conversion, is attended by bigotry and fanaticism. The convert overemphasizes the importance of faith, and hates, or anathematizes, all who think differently, though they may be well disposed, and even open to conviction, especially in teaching regarding clean living. When it is remembered that "the man who hates kills every moment, this being in his will and in the delight of his life," (Arcana Coelestia #3440) it may help in seeing the meaning of the revolting massacre of the Shechemites for the ravishment of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter.
The Meaning of Life
35. Every lapse in Christian living leads to repentance and reconsecration to life’s task. Jacob calls upon the members of his household to get rid of their strange gods, and proceed to Bethel—"the house of God"—for worship. There the Lord confirmed the change of name to Israel and the gift of the promised land to his seed. It is all very significant. Soon after the first conflicts with evil the convert sees the enormity of the task before him, and feels profoundly the apparent hopelessness of it. Human nature cannot be changed! The world defies anyone to alter it for the better! Youth looks in despair for the system that will work in overcoming evil, and how to put it into operation. Every art has its own technique. Where is the technique of the art of Christian living? Out of youth’s desperation comes the plain simple concept in the words, "If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14). The saving power of the Lord is in the truth that brings evil into the light, to condemn it, and get rid of it. It is easy to see the technique of salvation in relation to other people, but hard to apply it to self. Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin. She named him Benoni, "Son of my sorrow," but "his father called him Benjamin," which means "Son of my right hand," the power of truth energized by love (John 3:16, 17). Joseph and Benjamin are inseparable. Rachel named her first-born Joseph, and said, "The Lord shall add to me another son." The love of saving is impotent without the truth to give it its objective. The fact also that Benjamin was born at Bethlehem, where "the Word became flesh," is highly significant. "For thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel" (Matthew 2:6). "The image vanishes when the Form Itself appears" (Arcana Coelestia #4904).
This completes the twelve "sons of Israel" whose descendants now become the central figure in God’s Word to the last. The conception and birth of the truths by which we live have as their background all the states through which we have passed in infancy and childhood. What now follows presents the development and unfolding of the content of these truths under pressure of life’s trials. The captivity of the ten foreshadows the final test of reason, and the captivity of Judah the final test of the will that yields the concept of the Son of God to restore every truth that has been under doubt or denial. This is the law, the prophets and the Gospel.
And Jacob came unto his father Isaac in Hebron, and he and Esau buried their father after his death. Burial implies resurrection, the reawakening of reason to new conditions in the regenerate life.
36. In further preparation for this new development the good in the natural man is coordinated with the elements in character now about to come into the foreground. How little we know about the way in which the strongest parts in man are marshaled to restore health in a sick body. No more do we see or understand the part played by the good in obscure members of the community in time of recovery from a disaster or accident. So with this strange enumeration of "the generation of Esau, who is Edom." Its significance in the context is very remote, but reminds us of the complexity of the most common phenomenon known to us—life—and how little we really know about it.
The Central Truth in Christianity
37. We now attempt to follow the inner experience of youth from its first fresh contact with the life of religion to the time of its full contact with the world in which it has to live. Here follows the journey from Canaan to Egypt. "The kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country" (Luke 15:13). We generally appreciate home better after having been away from it for a time. Contrasts give pungency to life. The Divine Love is absolute reality, the central power in the universe. That Love manifested in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central truth in Christianity. The Bible stories prophetic of the Lord’s Advent present the theme in varied light. Jacob gave his favorite child a coat of many colors. Youth enthusiastically recognizes the superlative beauty in the Lord’s self-sacrificing life. It is, however, so far beyond human attainment, that it loses its practical value as youth approaches what it is pleased to call real life. Youth questions the preeminence of sacrificial love in a hard-boiled world. Youth places little value on self-sacrificing love when self-interest is at stake. The brethren sold Joseph for a few paltry pieces of silver. Youth repudiates the supremacy of love and violates the gospel teaching when self-interest prevails and is justified. The brethren display the blood-stained coat to Jacob to account for Joseph’s absence.
38. The picture presents the state of the world today. Christendom recognizes the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior, as the central figure in its religion. The supremacy of the Lord, however, is denied in the polity of both Church and State. The Church is dominated by the world. Joseph is down in Egypt. The sad state of the Church "lapsed into falsity, and evil, and idolatry" (Arcana Coelestia #4815) is depicted in the connection of Judah with Shua and Tamar and the sons born of them, the progenitors of the tribe of Judah. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon it. What is for the most part concealed in the origin here appears in its later developments. In passing it may be worth noting that Judah represents the depraved state of the Church when he persuaded his brothers to sell Joseph. It was also Judas who sold his Master for a few pence. Judah paid "double for all his sins" (Isaiah 40:2) in the Babylonian captivity, and Judas expiated his crime in the sacrifice of his life.
The World Without Christ
39. Joseph prospered in the house of Potiphar, and was placed in charge of it. Then followed his temptation from Potiphar’s wife, and his incarceration on false charges. This represents the first preparation for the restoration of the Church. It has a remarkable fulfillment in the quiet work done within the last century in restoring all the records of past civilizations, and furnishing a more complete knowledge of them. The Church is tempted to rest its case with the authentication of the letter of the Sacred Scriptures and bow to the authority of revelation, and the literal interpretation of it, which suppresses the "spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 19:10).
40. The world suffers from a lack of charity. Through its sufferings it must first learn that differences of opinion in others should be tolerated or even encouraged; only a lack of charity deserves condemnation, in accord with the letter of the Word. The butler will be restored to his former place as the servant of Pharaoh, and the baker hanged.
41. Through suffering also the Church must learn that the good stored up in man in childhood is never lost, and is the divinely appointed means of saving the world. Pharaoh has his dreams, but Joseph is needed to interpret them. The Lord opens the Scriptures and reveals his merciful provision for the salvation of his people.
"The Bread of Life"
42. God’s Word is by far the best seller in the market today. And there are not lacking other symptoms of a great hunger and thirst for righteousness in the world, a hunger for the teachings of religion—the bread of life. The famine is felt in the land. The disrupted Church senses the needs of the people, and is eager to supply it. The brethren, the shepherds of Israel, go down into Egypt for food. Joseph opens the storehouse and supplies their needs without cost. As yet they do not know him.
43. Before the Church can serve the people it must become more united. The bread of life can only be dispensed to the humble and well-disposed. When the brethren came before Joseph the first time they bowed in formal acknowledgment of his sovereignty. The second time they bowed even to the ground. The third time they prostrated themselves before him. The Church must be humbled. The conceit in knowledge, with the perpetual struggle for uniformity in matters of doctrine, must die, and a brotherhood be established in the Church. Joseph charged his brethren with being spies come to see the nakedness of the land. They protested that they were brethren, members of the true Church, seeking only the good of others. Yet one was lacking in the brotherhood, even Benjamin. This is admitted without realizing its significance.
Israel is unwilling to let the brethren take Benjamin with them to Egypt. We are not prepared to exercise brotherly love freely. Yet Joseph may not be approached again without Benjamin. Without practicing loving mercy toward one another, we can never behold the loving mercy of the Lord. Why should bitter feelings engendered by controversies and dissensions in the Church prevail? Why cannot we get rid of them, and have the Lord’s presence among us as a united Church? Practical Christianity demands it. We must have this food, or perish.
The Catholicity of Scripture
44. Judah’s pledge to give his life for Benjamin procures the assent of Israel. They who have solely the good of the Church at heart can be trusted to find the means of reconciliation. But greater sacrifice is called for to effect it. Joseph’s divining cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, endangering his freedom. We take merit to ourselves for the practical lessons of Christianity drawn from revelation. We must learn to accept these lessons and live according to them, without any thought of reward. We have no monopoly of the truth. Christian charity demands that we recognize every man who lives, according to his faith as our neighbor. "This is my brother. I see that he worships the Lord and is a good man" (Arcana Coelestia #2385).
45–47. Charity—Benjamin—is the only medium that can reveal the Lord—Joseph—and restore unity in the Church. It is prophetic. Some day the spirit that breeds heresies in the Church will be dissipated, and one Church arise out of many, or unity prevail in the midst of diversity. Jacob, and the brethren, and their children, and their flocks and herds all went down into Egypt, and settled in the land of Goshen. The Church is learning that the points on which they agree are more important than those on which they differ.
A New Will and Understanding
48. The beginning of the end approaches. Jacob is about to die. Joseph brings his two boys and places them before Jacob so that in blessing them his right hand would be placed on the head of Manasseh, the first-born, and his left on Ephraim the second-born. But Jacob crossed his hands so that the right was on Ephraim and the left on Manasseh. Joseph protested. But Jacob said that it was intentional, and should remain so. The boys born of an Egyptian mother represent the new will and the new understanding in the natural man. When man is born again he acquires the will to do right as God gives him to see right. If he has not the will to believe, he cannot even entertain the truth. "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still" (Pope, "Essay on Man"). Good is prior and superior, truth secondary and subordinate. Nevertheless, the natural man still insists on placing truth first, and good second. He is convinced that he must learn the truth first, and then practice it. That is the appearance, and it is useless to quarrel over it. Everyone makes more of the truth per se than of good until he has reduced it to practice. It is the same in general in politics as in religion. A man’s political belief is supreme, and unassailable, although it is still theoretical, very uncertain what it means in practical terms, and wholly unproved. Truth comes first, good second. It has its place—an educational value, which may not be disregarded. But without God’s love in the heart leading, life’s problem is insoluble. Joseph’s viewpoint is from within, Jacob’s from without.
Potency of the Truths of Faith
49. The interest and thought given to practical Christian living in the newborn man are destined to take a most important place in the regeneration of the individual and the community. Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as members of his family. And when the tribes were settled in the promised land Ephraim had a place in the very heart of it, and Manasseh had not only a lot next to Ephraim’s, but also a lot on the farther side of Jordan. Jacob then gave his last will in words to each of his children. His benediction stresses the strong or weak points in their character, with warning, or encouragement, for future guidance. Attention is drawn to one only which is of special importance. To Judah he said: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, or a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." Judah means "praise," the outpouring of love. Shiloh means "peace," and, as used here personally, refers to the Prince of Peace, of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end, "upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever" (Isaiah 9:7). In Jacob’s benison and Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in the life of the Lord there surely could not be any stronger attestation of the sovereignty of love. The line of descent from Judah through David to Jesus is unbroken. "As far as truth is leader, so far good is obscured; but as far as good is a leader, so far truth shines in its light" (Arcana Coelestia #2407).
50. Jacob died and was buried with Abraham and Isaac in the cave of Machpelah. Burial signifies resurrection. Everything good in man lies deeply hidden behind and beneath his character. Everything that he has received from above in the past exists in the present, and makes up his character, though most of it may be wholly forgotten. "The kingdom of heaven is within you" (Luke 17:21). The Lord said this to the Pharisees. They did not know it, except possibly in theory. For He said unto them, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13).
Belief in the Savior a Memory
When the father died the brethren feared that Joseph would get even with them for their mean treatment of him. Contrary to the general rule, Joseph not only represented, but also exemplified the Savior’s love. "You meant to do me evil," he said, "but God meant good to come out of it, as is happening today, to save much people alive."
Would that this spirit had lived in the brethren and their children! Would that this spirit lived in us when first we entered the world to make a living in it. Joseph died, but was not buried. His body was placed in a sarcophagus, and guarded for about two hundred years, and then taken out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and finally buried in the land as Joseph requested. The unburied body in Egypt meant that the belief in the Lord as the Savior, with all the tender associations connected with it in youth, had become a dead memory; or possibly, at best, or at worst, an empty profession of faith.
Youth is at the crossroads. The garden of Eden is behind, and the world with all its allurements ahead. Youth faces a broad and easy road to the left, and a narrow and straight road to the right. Which shall it be?
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